PET bales stacked for recycling.

Recipients will put the grant money toward growing their processing capabilities. | Menzl Guenter/Shutterstock

Five grants from an initiative of The Recycling Partnership are projected to boost PET capture by 5.1 million pounds per year, among other improvements.

The PET Recycling Coalition was launched by The Recycling Partnership in June of 2022 with the aim of improving the circularity of PET packaging. It awards grants to increase efficiency and effectiveness of PET recycling at materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and PET reclaimers. 

This is the second round of grants, totaling $950,000, and awardees were Balcones Resources, Republic Services, Direct Pack Recycling, Merlin Plastics and Placon, a press release noted.

The first set of the grants from the group was announced in January 2023. 

According to the press release, “the five new grants awarded are projected to increase PET capture by 5.1 million pounds per year, strengthen thermoform access for over 350,000 households, and increase annual reclamation capacity for 31.9 million pounds of bottles, 31.6 million pounds of thermoforms, and 2.6 million pounds of pigmented/opaque PET.”

The two MRFs receiving grants are Balcones Resources’ planned San Antonio facility and Republic Services’s Conover, N.C. facility. Both are using the money to install optical sorters capable of handling larger volumes and varieties of PET bottles and thermoforms. 

Republic Services noted that a new optical sorter could capture an additional 300,000 pounds of PET bottles and thermoforms per year.  

Balcones Resources estimates that the two optical sorters it plans to install will be able to sort PET bottles and PET thermoforms in separate streams, improving bale quality. The two sorters will handle 12 million pounds of PET per year, a roughly 15% increase compared to currently available infrastructure. 

Joaquin Mariel, chief commercial officer at Balcones, said in the press release that the grant allows the company to be “more progressive and forward-looking.” 

The other three grants went to PET reclaimers. California-based Direct Pack Recycling will use the grant money to help it build a reclamation facility in Rockingham, N.C. designed to recycle higher volumes of PET thermoforms. 

British Columbia-based Merlin Plastics will add a processing line exclusively for thermoforms with the grant funding, and Madison, Wis.-based Placon plans to invest in front-end sorting equipment to capture about 10% more PET from incoming MRF bales. Adam Gendell, director of materials advancement at The Recycling Partnership, said in the press release that “we’re encouraged by the quantity and quality of the opportunities we’ve found to grow PET recycling and we will continue to accelerate and scale the solutions that are needed.” 

A version of this story appeared in Plastics Recycling Update on Apr. 11.

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